When I was a child, I spent much of my time around older people; kids my age were annoying and loud and I preferred something a bit more quiet most of the time. Adults, by contrast, were a lot less of those things and were full of stories about things.
The only thing I didn’t understand were the moments my mom or my grandparents would speak about white people. They would often discuss them with a sense of unfortunate knowing or deep-seated mistrust and concern; they were OK to be close to, but not too close lest they poison you somehow.
To me, all of those people were just people with a skin color that was different from mine. Different hair. Different backgrounds. Different was simply a fact of life that had no positives or negatives attached to it and we should all just be able to be people and get along.
You know, like the Martin Luther King Jr. guy.
I was well into my 20s before the things my elders were concerned about came into view. Ferguson, Eric Garner, Charlottesville, Travon Martin… and the words or silence of my fellow white countrymen.
What my younger self, full of ideals, didn’t understand then, my older self, wearily understands now.
So when someone asks me why we need to say Black Lives Matter specifically…
When they say that black is “just a label” that should be dropped because we’re just people…
When I see people decrying BLM as a terrorist group equal in kind to the KKK…
Every time I see that, I think of my younger self and wish that the world he had hoped for was true. Then I have to dust the grief from my weary mind and try to make that world possible by having wearying conversations on why black lives, along with other people of color, should actually matter until I can just be people.